Ndou is the Tshivenda name for the Elephant. It was also the name of one of the camp staff’s son at Sirheni. I did not realise this at the time and only found out when I looked up the name after returning home. It seemed an appropriate name for the little boy, who was always helping his father in camp and always greeted us with a broad, friendly but cheeky smile and he reminded me of the little Elephants we had seen in the park which always seemed to be wearing a smile and were full of playfulness. Maybe that’s why the little lad was named in the first place?
Our first encounter with Elephant in the park on this trip was also at Sirheni. He was a friendly bill who regularly patrols the fence along the river here and is very approachable, being unconcerned with all the attention he was receiving from the visitors in camp. The only time he took any notice of us is when I took a flash photograph of an insect without thinking that he was just the other side of the fence. He just popped his head through the bush and gave me a bit of a stare before continuing to munch on the sweet vegetation along the shore.
Our next encounter was the flip side of the coin. We were returning South from Punda Maria when we saw a youngish bull walking towards the road. We coasted up and pulled over to the side of the road about 50 or 60 metres from where he would cross in front of us. As he came around a frond of palms, he took one look at us, shook his head and trunk in disapproval, and bluff charged towards us a few metres before continuing on his way across the road. I thought that as we were in a grey vehicle, he may have mistook us for another Elephant, but on reading up later, discovered that younger bulls are often very nervous and behave like this even towards such smaller animals as Warthog and Impala!
The largest bull we saw was walking along the road towards us with a heavy limp. He was obviously in a lot of pain and it was distressing to watch such a magnificent animal suffering in this way. He turned off the road before he was close enough to photograph from the front, but I managed to get a bum shot as he made his way into the bush. His right ear has a distinctive hole in it, so he may be a known tusker?
Three other bulls were nearby, feeding on shrubs and grasses, or taking a rest by leaning against a tree!
Two other bulls were watched as they took a mud bath on the main road North of Mopani. One of these two was obviously enjoying his spruce up and even looked as if he was exercising at one stage!
A breeding herd crossed the road in front of us one day, the mothers ushering the youngsters across in matronly fashion. One of the youngsters made a dash for freedom, but was quickly turned back by the intervention of two curling, guiding trunks before they all vanished into the bush.
Another largish bull was in the dry riverbed below the bridge at Shingwedzi. I’m not too sure what was on his mind, but it appeared that he had more than the usual four legs!
Our last sighting of Elephant on this trip was at Shimanangweni Dam, north of Talamati, of a lone animal who was standing still at the waters edge, lit by the low evening sun.Click on the pic to view a slideshow of images…..